Helping Stroke Patients Breathe Easier

Devices clear lungs of recovering victims

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FRIDAY, Feb. 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A combination of two devices that clear secretions from the lungs can protect hospitalized stroke patients from respiratory problems.

That's the finding of a study that will be presented Feb. 14 at the American Stroke Association's annual conference in Phoenix.

Stroke can affect your swallowing and breathing functions and interfere with your body's ability to clear normal lung secretions. That can lead to pneumonia or the collapse of air sacs in the lungs.

All these conditions can lead to hypoxemia -- a condition in which there is a less-than-normal amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, resulting in less life-sustaining oxygen being delivered to organs and tissue.

In this study, researchers at the University of Alabama Medical Center at Birmingham tested a combination of an air-filled vibrating vest and a mechanical cough-assist device. The vest vibrates at high frequency, loosening secretions lodged in the lungs and creating friction between the air and mucus.

The vest's action helps move secretions from the lower lungs to the upper airways.

Then it's the turn of the cough-assist device. This consists of a mask that fits over the face and a mechanism that pushes a big breath of air into the lungs and then rapidly sucks the air out, bringing the mucus along with it.

Each treatment lasts 5 to 10 minutes.

Both devices already have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

The study compared the effectiveness of this vest/cough-assist device to the conventional method of loosening lung secretions in stroke patients by thumping them on the back and turning them over.

The study found the vest/cough-assist device combination offered significant advantages in a number of areas, including an improvement in oxygen saturation.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about stroke-related health complications.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Feb. 14, 2003

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